Restaurant Photography Tips from a Professional Photographer

Ivan Martinez
Corporate photographer with expertise in business headshots, events, commercial, and construction photography.
¿Qué es Nombre?
The Canadian Rockies photo workshop The Canadian Rockies photo workshop


Most people eat with their eyes first, so capturing mouth-water food photos and aesthetically pleasant photos of the ambiance of a restaurant for marketing materials is crucial to attract new and returning customers.

Continue reading to learn all the tips and tricks to make the perfect food and restaurant photos to help any restaurant grow.

Tips and Tricks For Restaurant Photography

A picture is worth a thousand words, and when it comes to restaurant marketing, it could be worth a thousand customers, too. Restaurant photography, sometimes called restaurant food photography, is much more than capturing restaurant photos or photos of a plate of food; a mouth-watering shot showcasing the restaurant menu entices new customers to want to know more about the restaurant and its food.

Food photographers are an essential part of any restaurant marketing team, as we are in charge of making high-quality food photos that can be used in various marketing materials, including websites, social media platforms and visual menus.

Whether you are a professional photographer looking to learn more about this type of photography, a chef or restaurant owner looking to attach new diners to your restaurant or a foodie blogger trying to get the best quality food images for your social media feed, these food photography tips are going to be useful to make your restaurant or social media profile stand out from the crowd:

Prepare for the shoot

The first thing I usually do is talking with the client about the ideas they have and the style of photos they want the final result to be. Make sure to take the necessary time to understand the clients’ needs. Ask yourself: “What are they trying to accomplish?” Don’t be afraid to take notes. 

A good photographer will work to develop a clear understanding of what needs to be the main focus of the photoshoot and what’s the vision of the client. This is the part of the process that will build the foundation for everything you are going to do later.

Once you know what the client wants and needs, you’ll need to plant what equipment you are going to need to get the job done. The camera, lenses, and tripod are a given, but you should also consider if you are going to need additional lighting equipment or props. You should also create a list of required shots to make sure that you captured all the necessary images the client wants.

See the space

A few days before the photoshoot, you can take some time to walk around the restaurant. Examine the lighting conditions inside the restaurant and take notes of any interesting details that you could include in photos to make them more unique.

Example of restaurant phography by Ivan Martinez Photography

For example, if the restaurant has any captivating art pieces on the walls, you can use them as the background of some photos or if the restaurant has unique cutlery, you can incorporate it into the pictures. Remember that should not only show how the food looks, but also how it feels to be at the restaurant.

Pick the right lighting 

Even though natural lighting is often regarded as the best lighting to make great photos and avoid harsh shadows on your pictures, many restaurants can have dim or uneven lighting that makes the incorporation of artificial lighting a must. 

If you, or the client, are set on using natural lighting, you can try making the photos in outside tables or near a window. If there’s no way to use natural lighting, or if you prefer to use artificial lighting for consistency, there are several artificial lighting techniques you can use. You can try to recreate daylight with the use of softbox lights and reflectors, or you can make the photos feel cozy and intimate by using candles or string lights as your lighting source.

Pick the correct camera

If you are trying to capture professional-quality restaurant pictures, your iPhone camera won’t do. DSLR cameras are ideal because of their versatility and ability to capture high-quality images. 

Example of restaurant phography by Ivan Martinez Photography

The lenses you are going to take with you are going to depend on what’s the vision for the photoshoot. But it’s always a good idea to have a wide-angle lens to capture the entire restaurant space, including decor, tables and seating arrangements. A macro lens can be used to make close - up pictures of the dishes to captures its intricate details, such as texture and garnishes.

Mix up your angles

Using different angles can help you get the best photo possible and get very interesting and unique images. Food styling is essential and part of it is that not every dish is going to look great at the same angles. 

The most popular angles for food photography are from above, capturing the entire table and from a low angle at the height of the dish. But don’t be afraid to experiment with different angles, different lenses and different camera setting, such as different shutter speed and saturation, until you get the perfect photo for every dish. 

Eliminate unnecessary clutter

Right before you start shooting, remove all unnecessary items from the table you are going to use for the photoshoot and the surrounding areas. Remember that photography is a subtractive process, you need to compose your image to only include key items and keep potential distractions out of the frame.

Example of food photography: dish at a restaurant

For example, when capturing photos of the dishes, including salt and pepper shakers, menus and glasses of water in the photo can take away the focus from the dish that’s being photographed, defeating the purpose of said photo.

Variety matters

Remember that you aren’t only capturing photos of food, you should also capture the exterior and interior details that make the restaurant unique or even some diners enjoying their meals. You should be showing the experiences that can be lived in the restaurant, and variety in your photos is key to achieve that. 

Making several types of photos also creates flexibility in the possible uses for the photos, as different pictures can be used for different marketing materials.

Integrate some movement 

Adding a sense of movement to your photos can bring them to life. Movement creates a sense of energy and excitement that makes the photos more engaging for anyone who sees them.

Example of restaurant phography: Chef in action

The most popular ways to integrate movement into food photography is to capture a chef in motion while cooking the food and capturing the steam that comes out of a hot dish.

Use a tripod for clear images

Using a tripod ensures that you capture consistently focused and sharp images. This is ideal when you need some uniformity in different shots, such as when you are making photos for a visual menu. Also, the use of a tripod can help avoid fatigue and shaky images towards the end of the day.

Add a human touch

Example of restaurant phography with a human touch

Great photos give the viewer something to connect with, and the best way to do this is to add a human element. Including people who are enjoying the food or having a great time at the restaurant creates a sense of warmth that will make people want to visit the restaurant to experience those feelings. It’s also a great way to tell a story through images and help bring the restaurant to life.

Use zoom

Zoom can also create a sense of depth and focus that leads the viewer directly to where you want their focus to be. Experimenting with your depth of field can help you create different types of images without even needing to move the camera. Along with your macro lens, zoom will help you capture the small details that would have been overlooked otherwise.

Highlight colors

Example of restaurant photography: colorful dish at a restaurant

Make sure to pay attention to the colors you find in the restaurant and in the dishes, and use these colors to create a visually appealing set of photos that goes with the personality of the restaurant. 

You can include complementary colors into your shots to make the main colors pop, or you can highlight a specific color by making it the focal point of the image.

Edit the photos for perfect results

The final step of creating a great photo is editing it to adjust any details that you couldn’t control during the photoshoot. There are several software programs, such as photoshop and lightroom where you can adjust the brightness and contrast, crop the image and even delete some details that don’t fit your or the client’s vision.

Creating stunning pictures for restaurant photography requires planning ahead, creativity and attention to detail. Don’t be afraid to try new things, especially when you can’t find the right angle to make your vision come to life. 

My name is Ivan Martinez, I’m a professional photographer with over 22 years of experience working for several media organizations in the US. I’m interested in creating the best photos to elevate your restaurant to the next level.

Stand Out with a Headshot That Truly Represents You.
As a professional headshot photographer, I’ll make sure to reflect the best version of you.
Capture Emotion & Drive Sale
Let's plan your commercial photography session!
Book Your Construction Photography Session
Let your hard work shine!
Showcase Every Emotion at Your Corporate Events
As a professional headshot photographer, I’ll make sure to reflect the best version of you.

Your Business Presence Is Only as Good as Its Visual Representation

Get high-quality, professional, and consistent photographs to market your goods and services.
Let’s talk
Capture Emotion & Drive Sale
Capture Emotion & Drive Sale
Let's plan your commercial photography session!